Dengue Reports In Samoa Leads To Precautions In Am. Samoa

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Ports of entry into territory monitoring by Health Department

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 10, 2014) – A dengue fever alert from neighboring Samoa has resurrected a call by the local Health Department for American Samoa residents to keep their surroundings free of areas which serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes that may carry the virus, which can be deadly.

DoH official Tamasoaali’i Dr. Joseph Tufa announced on state run KVZK-TV last Friday night that an alert has been received from Samoa’s MInistry of Health about one confirmed case of dengue in a man who recently returned from Fiji. (See below for more details).

He noted that many people travel between Samoa and the Territory, and travelers headed to the independent state should be fully aware of dengue cases there. Local ports of entry — the Tafuna airport and Pago Harbor — will be closely monitored by DoH inspectors.

Tamasoaali’i also says the DOH’s environmental division’s main function is to make sure the public is aware of preventive measures to take in order to avoid this mosquito borne disease, and one preventive measure is to keep surroundings clean and make sure to drain containers that hold water.

"We’d like to emphasize that people need to... prevent the mosquito from biting them [and] to drain out these empty containers, or use proper clothing when they go outside, so the mosquito won’t bite them — [by wearing] a long sleeve shirt," he said, adding that mosquito repellant is also very useful.

The last dengue outbreak in the territory declared by the hospital and DOH was in 2008, when 668 cases were confirmed with the youngest patients a pair of one-year olds and the oldest patient 93-years old. As reported by Samoa News, despite the high number of confirmed cases, there was only one death, that of a 10-year old boy in 2008.

During confirmed dengue outbreaks in past years, both DoH and LBJ have advised the public to take preventative precautions, using the "3 Ds" to avoid the dengue virus.

Samoa News believes this is the best time to reiterate that 3-D campaign:

Samoa’s health ‘alert’ was issued last week, saying a case tested positive for dengue on Feb. 17, and a blood specimen has been sent overseas for re-confirmation.

"We wish to highlight here that this is an ALERT and that all health personnel must be vigilant as this can trigger an outbreak of Dengue Fever in the country, especially as there have been several outbreaks in Pacific Island countries to date," said Samoa’s director general and CEO of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri in the alert. (Samoa News column Tala Mai Samoa reported about the alert last week and Leausa is a former LBJ physician,)

"The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring the situation and looking to address source reduction; prevention and other Public Health aspects of a possible outbreak event," it says.

There is already growing concern in the region about dengue, with Fiji’s Ministry of Health confirming early last week the death toll from dengue has reached seven people, with more than 1,000 having contracted the mosquito borne illness, according to Radio New Zealand International (RNZI).

Fiji officials say the risk of dengue infection will continue in the aftermath of heavy downpours two weeks ago. Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Honolulu and Puerto Rico are helping Fiji with expertise, assessment and surveillance.

Last month, the Cook Islands reported 44 people with dengue like symptoms and last week, Tonga confirmed two cases.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, or SPC, says the number of dengue fever outbreaks in the region over the past year is unprecedented, and the reason for the increase in cases is unknown, RNZI reported last Friday. In the last 14 months, all four types of dengue fever have circulated the region at different times.

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